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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 10, 2009 4:10pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Importance of Pig...or not...?

So, LiA's post about Pig and his influence got me thinking. If you take the studio output, judging from the collections available via the Golden Road Collection, it's hard to avoid concluding that in spite of our (mine, others) speaking to Pig's importance in the early days, when the Boys got into the studio their output doesn't seem to reflect this sentiment.

Just listen to the various studio efforts of 65, early 66, 67, 68 and 69. One would be hard pressed to conclude on those tunes that Pig was a major factor in the band. If you say "well, it's not just which songs are those with individuals as lead vocalist" I realize you could argue that Billy or Phil are equally second tier, but we set them aside given their instruments. Right?

That leaves us with attempting to explain how the band that might have had Pig occupy a substantial portion of a given show with MidHr and/or LLight, but nonetheless, when push came to shove, it appears that in the studio largely Jerry called the shots relative to the songs that were produced. A few Phil tunes, a few Bobby tunes, and a very few Pig tunes.

If one just adds up the % tunes by various band members it is not apparent that Pig is in any way the leader...in spite of the fact that I have thought that for the earliest years, and certainly others suggested that was so when watching/listening to them in 66 & 67...but...

In any case, I just don't know how you acknowledge the efforts in the studio, coupled with the famous "firing" of fall 68, and the suites that they developed in 68 and 69, with the notion that Pig really was anything more than a figurehead of sorts.

As LiA notes, it might be critical, with just tunes like Alligator and Caution, and MidHr and LLight, but the more I think about it, the more I think that the role for Pig was not as substantive as I once thought.

Certainly for the majority of you that conclude that 72-77 were the important/peak yrs, it would seem one could argue that Pig was not much different than any other keyboard player as much as it pains me to say it...

Thoughts?

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Poster: JC Edwards Date: Jun 11, 2009 2:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Hey WT

I believe Sir what it all boils down too is that, no matter what context it was, Pigpen was an essential for the Grateful Dead.

It did not matter if he was on "record" or not. It was his very presence that was most important. As Jerry and Phil have both been quoted here in this thread...."Pigpen was the tether back to reality".

The organic blesh that was Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Kreutzman and Hart (after '67 of course) was backboned by one Ronald C. McKernan. :-)

Pigpen could, hypothetically, kick you square in the balls....and all it would do is make you smile and want more. :-D

"Pigpen is now and forever one of THE GRATEFUL DEAD" ;-)

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Poster: user unknown Date: Jun 10, 2009 6:00pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

"Thoughts?"

The studio output was controlled by the studio "suits". Therefore they were recording things they felt would be "commercially viable". Mr. McKernan's contributions were not so much "commercially viable". His output was much more live oriented and could grab a crowd by the "short and curlies". His signature "tunes" were also hard to compress into the studio preferred 3:00 to 3:30 time frame. From 1965 through 1966('67?), it was Pig' band(on stage at least)and without Brother Ron there may not have been a Grateful Dead. By 1968 his influence was beginning to wane, and lessened further until the time of his untimely demise.

This post was modified by user unknown on 2009-06-11 01:00:22

This post was modified by user unknown on 2009-06-11 01:00:40

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 10, 2009 9:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Thanks one and all!

The only quibble I have is that the 65 studio recordings were not, to my knowledge, influenced by the "suits" but I largely take your point for the first album in 67...

This was what really got me thinking about it...the Scorpio sessions and what have you appear to largely be a result of the boys deciding what would be commercially viable, and thus, I am now thinking THEY came up with Early Morning Rain, and so on...

But, this is pure speculation...maybe others were looking over they shoulders and pushing them away from Pig tunes...

And, we certainly have all the comments by Jerry and others as to Pig's importance, which is what has always caused me to view him as you and the others describe below.

What I was thinking about is what caused the differences with all the studio material, whether it be the ones with Warner jerking them around (first) or their own time (65) or their own creativity (anthem), it seemed Pig got the short end of the stick.

I guess I am inclined to see it along the lines Earl provided...that was where I got the "figurehead" notion. He can be as important as all get out without necessarily translating to studio production material.

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Poster: Styrofoam Cueball Date: Jun 10, 2009 11:07pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Thanks one and all!

Well, they did make it up to him with Side 3 of "Live/Dead"...

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Poster: tim_oz Date: Jun 10, 2009 5:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

I agree that one has to view him from the perspective of his live performances, and also his general influence on, and presence in, the band through those early years. There are some interesting quotes that shed more light on this:

Garcia on the shift from jug band to electric band:

'..was Pigpen's idea. He'd been pestering me for a while - he wanted me to start up an electric blues band. That was his trip...'

Garcia on the early days of the band:

'He was the guy who really sold the band, not me or Weir... Pigpen is what made the band work.'

Garcia on Pigpen performing:

'He had great stage presence. Out in front of the crowd he could work the band, and he'd really get the audience going. He always had more nerve than I could believe. He'd get the audience on his side, and he'd pick somebody out - like a heckler - and get on them. He'd crack us up. Sometimes he'd just kill me!'

Danny Rifkin:

'He had an almost shamanic quality; kind of a revival tent meeting type of thing. I liked those grooves - 'Midnight Hour,' 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,' 'Lovelight,' - kind of tribal, primal, great to dance to. Pigpen had a nice round voice and he played the crowd like a preacher.'

Some quotes on Pigpen providing a link to earth for the lysergically enhanced:

Phil, I think in the Anthem to Beauty video says something to the effect of Pigpen as, 'our frontman... living and breathing the blues.. our tether to earth.'

Garcia - 'He was our anchor. We'd be out of our minds - ZOWWWGOINNNNNNGG! - and we'd be tethered to Pigpen. You could rely on Pigpen for a reality check : 'Hey man, is it too weird, or what?' And he'd say, 'No man, it's cool.' Everybody used him on that level. He was like gravity. Hell's Angels would be sitting around a room fucked up on acid and Pigpen would be taking care of them! It was so great. Pigpen was like a warm, cozy fire.'

Rock Scully: 'Even musically, when the band was going way, way out in 'Dark Star,' they knew they could listen to Pig and have some sense of where they were. So he was reliable in that way. You knew he wasn't seeing snakes.'

One thing I haven't heard much of is Pigpen outside the context of the band, like his solo performances in the 1970 acoustic sets, 'Katie Mae'. I understand there are some recordings of him solo, with guitar or piano. Anyone know if they are available here at the archive? If they are I'm struggling to locate them...

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Poster: SkyDawg Date: Jun 10, 2009 11:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Nice post! I would like to add another quote to the list:

Phil Lesh "Searching For The Sound"

"When Pig's in charge, the grooves get fatter (fur-lined" is the term we use), each beat has just a little more weight and the space around it is more vivid, the texture gets leaner, and the give-and-take between the individual band members (as well as the interplay between Pig and the band as a whole) becomes sharper, more pointed, and faster."
pp 150-151

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Poster: JC Edwards Date: Jun 10, 2009 6:31pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Are you referring to the Apartment Tapes Mr. oz?

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Poster: tim_oz Date: Jun 10, 2009 6:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Indeed I am Mr Edwards. In the 1st Taping Compendium there is reference to the Apartment Demos, and also Studio Sessions.

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Poster: JC Edwards Date: Jun 10, 2009 6:58pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Drop me a line Mr. oz..

rebsoldier9 atAOL dotcom

Let me know it's you in the subject header. :-)

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Poster: high flow Date: Jun 11, 2009 10:08am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

http://www.archive.org/details/gd66-01-xx.sbd.hanno-uli.18846.sbeok.shnf

This document will shed light on which band member led the way in the studio. From what I hear in this rehearsal, the band was "dealing" w/ Pig. This was in 66.

Listen to Phil talking down to Pig....."I'm gonna throw you the keys.....If you catch them, you can go."

I love Pig. I always say that Pig made GD a MAN'S band, but I don't get the sense that he was in charge. He was the front-man on stage, no doubt.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 11:15am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: HF beats Tell to punch line by a year...

Boy! I'll say...very interesting stuff. Thanks HF.

So, that lends support to the "band" induction hypothesis (ie, they more than either external forces [Warner] or Pig himself, were in part responsible for this disparity of live vs studio output).

Looks like I could have just read this review and figured it out about a year ago!


"Reviewer: high flow - - July 12, 2008
Subject: Well worth the time....
I listened to this session top to bottom....it is, at this point, a documentary piece.

I found it to be enthralling.

Pig may have been the front man on stage, but Jerry was clearly directing the band in this rehearsal. His determination and ability to lead are evident on this tape.

A real joy. A chance to stop imagining what an early GD rehearsal was like. Land on the wall and dig the scene baby. It's Tasty, it's tasty.:)"

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Poster: Styrofoam Cueball Date: Jun 11, 2009 6:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Pig, in his own write...

One last note:

Although Pigpen's image is that of a hard-drinkin', hard-livin' biker (which he was), there's a gentler, hippie side to him too, as revealed in the press release for the first album (included in the booklet of the expanded CD.) Everyone was asked to write a few words for the press release, and here's Blue Ron's:

"Can't think what to write, but there's an ant hobbling around on this table. Absquatulate with the funds, will ya? Had any prune-tang lately? There's a broken helicopter outside the door, looking bum-tripped after having fallen down on Happy Land St. and belonging to the people who work in the hangar next door. Poot, still at a loss. I like fun and making people happy. Sue just loves my blue bow." -Pig-Pen (Organ & Harp)

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 9:20pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Pig, in his own write...

Outstanding! We gots (as PP would put it) to add that to our lexicon, eh?

"Absquatulate"

"In the 19th century, the vibrant energy of American English appeared in the use of Latin affixes to create jocular pseudo-Latin "learned" words. There is a precedent for this in the language of Shakespeare, whose plays contain scores of made-up Latinate words. Midwestern and Western U.S. absquatulate has a prefix ab-, "away from," and a suffix -ate, "to act upon in a specified manner," affixed to a nonexistent base form -squatul-, probably suggested by squat. Hence the whimsical absquatulate, "to squat away from." Another such coinage is Northern busticate, which joins bust with -icate by analogy with verbs like medicate. Southern argufy joins argue to a redundant -fy, "to make; cause to become." Today, these creations have an old-fashioned and rustic flavor curiously at odds with their elegance. They are kept alive in regions of the United States where change is slow. For example, Appalachian speech is characterized by the frequent use of words such as recollect, aggravate, and oblige."

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Poster: Styrofoam Cueball Date: Jun 11, 2009 10:11pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Pig, in his own write...

Much obliged for the definition, WT! ;-)

Another interesting thing in the press release for the first album. Phil is consistently referred to as Reddy Kilowatt throughout. Too bad the name never really stuck...

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 9:10am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Hey Tim--been enjoying your insights hereabouts; great having you on board. Imagine you're our only OZzie...

Keep up the good work. And JCE, even if we only agree on Piper, that's one important point of connection!

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Poster: tim_oz Date: Jun 11, 2009 3:42pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Thanks for your kind words William Tell. Happy to be here to provide some antipodean representation and keep you northern hemisphereans in line!

"Citizens of the Northern Hemisphere, submit for you are a conquered people!"

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Poster: Styrofoam Cueball Date: Jun 10, 2009 5:29pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

I think user unknown is pretty close to what may have been the truth. And Tell, for shame, you dinna mention Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. At least it made the first album, and to me was always kind of a centerpiece of it, in that it stands out from the other tunes in it's bluesy funkiness...

EDIT: I was thinking more about this... There was no shortage of jamming/psychedelia in the "Pig Era," but having him there adds this bluesy/street edge, even on his admittedly few album cuts (nothing on Aoxomoxoa at all... same for Weir on that one). Once Pig is gone, that element of the GD was lost, never to return, and of course they still had the jamming side.

So, on balance, I think Pig adds more to the group than he hurts it. Dark Star excluded, of course. In some ways, via his personality, he adds MORE than any other keyboardist they had. Thank God Brent never tried singing "Mr. Charlie" or something... *shudder*

This post was modified by Styrofoam Cueball on 2009-06-11 00:29:20

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Poster: billydlions Date: Jun 10, 2009 5:59pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

I agree with that answer 100% Styrofoam. Pig was certainly instrumental in the Europe '72 tour and from '69 until '72 he was generally the show-stopper. I know I'm in the minority here on this board but I never cared for the band in the jazzy years after Pig left. It really wasn't until 76/77 that I started liking the music again and I've downloaded all the great shows from 73-75.

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Poster: ducats Date: Jun 11, 2009 5:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Forget about who sings or plays what, or the studio, and take me to the leader of the band;

what was Jer doing when Pig said, "that's it, play your guitar"?

He was following the leader.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 7:42am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Yep! This we know to be true...just wondering about the lack of studio efforts, esp if Jerry was his main man, which we also know to be true.

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Poster: subterraneangardens Date: Jun 11, 2009 11:53am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

all I know is pig could carry the show himself , while the band took a break.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jun 11, 2009 1:18pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Oh - so Pig took the stage and rapped all by himself for a while, while the band, worn out from their exertions, stopped playing and left for a break? Wow - other than the 'who cares rap' from '66, I've never heard that. You must have access to some of those Pigpen-a-cappella shows the rest of us haven't heard....

By the way, sarcasm aside - that 'who cares rap' is a shining example of Pigpen's grounding effect onstage. It's also interesting to hear, from the acid-tests we have, how the setlists were dominated by blues songs, which must have kept acid-fried band & audience tethered to the ground a bit.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jun 10, 2009 10:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig

Mr Tell, it's an interesting question - I did say in my earlier '68 posts that Pigpen's role was rather limited - but as an important member of the band, perhaps you're over-thinking it? You can reduce Pigpen to a "figurehead" or "just another keyboard player" by noting no writing credits, few studio songs, limited instrumental ability - but then, you can say the same of Weir, who was in an even leakier boat the first couple years.

First - Pigpen was one of the founders of the band - he and Weir were with Garcia in the Mother McCree's jugband, and he was urging Garcia to start an electric blues/rock band.
Second - as I mentioned, we're missing the beginning of the Warlocks story as far as recordings - but there's little doubt Pigpen was the lead guy, next to Garcia, in their '65 shows - Garcia himself said, "Pigpen is what made the band work."
Even in '66/67, he's not exactly hiding behind the organ when it's someone else's song, or fading out when the jams start (like he would later on) - his keyboard playing is central to the band sound, up to the start of '68.

Third - true, he didn't write songs for a few years - but most of what he did do, the band put on record - they went out of their way to give him songs! The claim that he doesn't show up much on records because of the "studio suits" or "commercial restrictions" is nonsense - look at what he was doing live from '68 on, most of those songs were released, at full-length, save for some blues covers. In '71/72 he had a bunch of new songs, so he is in the setlists even more frequently than earlier years. They even specifically released a tribute album featuring him when he died! He got as much room on their albums as was possible.

Fourth - and if, even after all that, you might still say he was an unequal contributor to the music - he was indispensible to early audiences - not only did he add the blues songs the others couldn't sing, he had all these huge show-closers like Midnight Hour & Lovelight that had a huge effect on their live shows, and on fans. Did they have a Weir lookalike contest, like Pigpen had? After Constanten left, were audiences clamoring for him at shows for a year afterward, like they did after Pigpen left? Have you checked out those crowds screaming at a Lovelight like they're at a Beatles show?

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 7:28am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Ron thanks you for the love...well, probably not...

I defn think that Pig would want NO part of us analyzing things like this, much less him...

Thanks LiA...I hear you...that was what prompted my question.

I think I set people off a bit by making it sound like "figurehead" means "unimportant".

Quite the contrary. Here's my analogy: Churchill as figurehead (for the UK, for democracy, for the West, whatever) was the most important Man of the first 50 yrs of last century, but we can ask "why did military men learn to avoid his input on strategy and tactics?" or some such...

So, all I was really getting at was why the breakdown in the translation of Pig's material to studio releases?

Was it more along those lines--what Earl pointed out: they wanted more original tunes and the move to psychadelia and Americana left him out somehow?

Anyway, good to see all the love for Pig!

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jun 11, 2009 1:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig

Well....I think the issue of Pigpen's involvement in the studio is a dead-end. The studio wasn't his main place, for sure - that Viola Lee Blues rehearsal is a good example of that! Though he practiced enough to play with the band, I get the feeling he wasn't really *with* them when it came to developing the arrangements.

So, we have a guy who, early on, doesn't write songs & pretty much stays to the side when they're coming up with new music & just covers some standard blues tunes at live shows.... You'd think he would hardly show up on records at all, wouldn't you?
Actually, it seems like the Dead's policy was to give Pigpen one song per record - even if it was long enough to take a whole album-side - and if he didn't have one, then write one for him. I've also wondered why Pigpen's repertoire was so limited - perhaps he didn't want to put in that much effort - like Elvis, he was already livin' the life, so why keep working hard? An endless supply of booze & women will have that effect on you.... Also, the way their music developed from '67-69 was not his type of music at all - so their shows would be rather schizophrenic - "Dead psychedelia & Pigpen blues".
Nonetheless, the band made an effort not to leave him out, he did pick up some new covers in '69, so he could sing as many songs in a show as he felt like - and it's noticeable that he started writing more songs once he cut down on the drinking.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 3:25pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of an "e"

LiA--all I can say is I am glad you know how to spell it...

I don't know why I always put an "a" where the "e" should be ("psychedelia") but there you have it...

And thanks for your comments.

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Poster: Earl B. Powell Date: Jun 10, 2009 8:52pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Very easy. The significant difference in those days was whether or not the band has graduated to performing all original material. This was the crucial element in music between playing in bars and having a recording contract.

On Aoxomoxoa, Pig had no writing credits, Live Dead, the same but for his inclusion in Dark Star. Again none on Workingman's and Operator the sole entry on Beauty. Caution, partial credit for Alligator and Operator were his contribution to five studio LP's produced while he was alive.

One of the reasons I believe Garcia loved Pigs music and held him up as the "leader" was that Jerry simply liked playing guitar. As much as I often dislike Weir's efforts, there are times when Garcia's rhythm chops are stoking the fire, and Garcia clearly likes having the freedom of NOT singing. Same with Pig.

In the end I have to say that Garcia also recognized that Pig's role in the band was going to be short lived. I can't recall what interview it was with Garcia, but he spoke about the unproductive nature of being a "juicer' versus what was offered up in terms of creativity with other mind altering substances.



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Poster: Arbuthnot Date: Jun 10, 2009 6:19pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

well, Tell, it's certainly worth contemplating, so thank you for positing the question of Pig's position in the band, studio-wise

i think UU & Styro-Q-ball make very valid arguments, and i find myself in agreement with their thinking

however, i have to ask the question, whatever Pig's contribution (or lack of) in the various setups, i just can't see how it makes much difference at the end of the day; i mean, to me anyway, Jerry has always been the center, the nexus so-to-speak, and the primary reason why i'm more a fan of Jerry's projects outside the GD, and yet, Pig (yes, especially more so in the beginning & early years) remains near-central as well; Pig probably didn't care for the studio ... he didn't have the crowd, that which he fed off of; he was a showman, he didn't care for the rules and formalities of some studio setting

as for his musical talent, well, if every musician i listened to had to be top-of-the-game, my audio collection would be severely diminished; you don't need to be a musical genious to produce great art, and i'm sure we can all list quite a few musicians/bands who fall into that category

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Poster: William Tell Date: Jun 11, 2009 8:57am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Hey Arb--you raise a very important point. Re: Pig's view of the studio.

Again, I dropped the ball on my presentation of this query in that I was trying to understand how someone so critical could have so few tunes on the studio output end of things, and think that it might boil down to the following hypotheses:

1) Pig factor: Pig didn't like it (just like he seemed to be uncomfortable with the acoustic tunes live; just as he seemed somewhat selfconscious while performing--as strange as that sounds!--I take that from his meek "thank you" after each and every tune; he was concerned about how he was rec'd, I think). Maybe he felt what he did was really only appropriate for live settings, etc., etc.

2) Band factor: band members wanted to move to orig material, and more focus on Americana/psychadelia (ie, LiveDead/Beauty/Work). He didn't excel in those two genres as well (though again, EWind, BBMan, Operator, show he could...right?)

3) Extrinsic forces factor: commercial success aspect (following from # 2, and also the influence of some outside forces, studio folks, etc., looking for more Gold Rd style tunes).

Might even be others, but it might be that # 1 and to a lesser extent # 2 were most critical.

Dunno.

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Poster: Arbuthnot Date: Jun 12, 2009 3:22pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Importance of Pig...or not...?

Tell, i certainly appreciate your critical analyses, and i am sure we'll be batting this discussion back and forth from now to the end of days; long live Pig